Rock Climbing Shoes Review

Rock climbing gear Reviews

Credit: Libby Sauter">

Looking for a new harness can be like trying to find a good gear placement; you'll know as soon you get good fit.

Analysis and Test Results

Whether you are selecting your first-ever climbing harness, or getting ready to buy your 10th model after a lifetime of climbing, a lot of thought needs to go into this purchase. Not only is this something you will be wearing on a regular basis (hopefully!) but your life depends on it. With moderate use, a harness should last for around five years or so, which is a lot longer than you'll keep other major purchases around, like a rope or pair of shoes, so you'll want to make sure you select the right product for both your climbing style and physique. Most manufacturers make several women's specific models to choose from; some even have a women's version of every men's model in their line-up. Whether you actually need a "women's" model depends on how your body is proportioned, and also what the manufacturer has deemed is the typical female climber's form (and they seem to all have different ideas of what that is). We go into this more in depth in our Buying Advice article. Don't be afraid to try on some men's or unisex versions when shopping - while you may prefer the more "girly" styling on the female options, or not, fit should come first and foremost when buying this essential piece of gear.

Karen Sahn in the women's specific Camp Supernova. Our Editors' Choice winner was designed to fit a woman's physique.

Types of Rock Climbing Harnesses

There are many different harness options available: some are aimed at specific styles of climbing, some are made for all-around use, and some are designed just for women.

Women's Specific

If you hadn't noticed yet, men and women tend to have very different body shapes. A women's specific design will have a longer rise (the distance between the leg loops and the waistbelt) to accommodate for the fact that on average, women tend to wear the waistbelt on their actual waists, and not their hip bones like a man does. A women's specific design will usually have slightly larger legs than a men's version relative to the waistbelt length. This is to accommodate for the "average" woman, who tend to have larger legs relative to their waist size in comparison to men. We say "tend" a lot when talking about body shapes, because there is a lot of variability in women's hip and thigh areas, much more so than for men. So for example, the size small women's Arc'teryx AR-385a has a 27-29 inch waistbelt and 21-22.5 inch leg loops. The Arc'teryx AR-395a men's version size x-small has a similar 27-29 inch waistbelt but 19-21 inch leg loops.

The new all-around models from Arc'teryx in the women's (AR-385a, left) and men's (AR-395a, right) versions. Note how the women's version has a longer rise to sit on the waist, and larger leg loops relative to waist size.

Typically, manufacturers make female versions of their popular male designs. Black Diamond has about twelve different models in their lineup, with "female" options for six of them. Petzl has eight different models, two of which have a women's version, and Camp offers a staggering sixteen choices, but only one for the ladies. With so many more options to choose from on the men's side compared to the women's, it is worth determining whether or not you even need a women's model to begin with. Our How to Choose the Best Climbing Harness for Women article will walk you through some measuring steps that will help you figure out which type will best suit your needs and body type.

Camp makes only one women's specific model, the Supernova. Good thing they did a great job with this one (it's our Editors' Choice winner) or we might be a little miffed!

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